Connect with teens through music |

Connect with teens through music

John Lennon to Tupac Shakur; Jimi Hendrix to Michael Franti; you may be surprised how much common ground there is between the music you loved as a teenager and the music your teens are listening to right now. Peace activist Michael Franti sings, “Everyone deserves music ” sweet music,” and you agree. Music is one of those inalienable rights on par with breathing. It has the power to evoke passion, emotion and action unlike anything else out there. So why not use it to help connect with your family?

This Thanksgiving holiday, I attended a sold-out Spearhead concert at the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver. Watching 3,000 enthusiastic fans jumping in unison to the funk reggae rhythms of Michael Franti’s love-inspired lyrics stirred in me an optimism for the power people create when they feel united around a cause they believe in. The feeling was overwhelming, and the love it created lifted a capacity audience off the floor.

Imagine using music to connect in this way with your family.

Here’s a challenge for you. Dig up an old song from your high school years which held particular resonance for you at the time. Pick one of those tasty morsels you clearly remember rocking out to in whatever ridiculously rebellious outfit you may have worn back in the day. Now take a good, hard listen. Search the lyrics online if you need help charging up the worn-out gray matter of yours. Now sit with it. See what it brings up. Songs have a way of taking you back, so take the ride and see what comes up. Allow yourself to visit the younger you. Spend some time there, judgment-free.

Now invite your family to the exercise. Ask them to spend some time finding a song which speaks to them in whatever way they feel most connected with their music. Ask them to share why the song has meaning. You don’t have to agree with it, like it or feel a connection yourself. That’s not the point. The point is to show your teens you value them for what makes them feel special, empowered or free. Suspend judgment and preference, and simply try to use the experience to open up a dialogue with your family.

These discussions will help illuminate who you are and what you believe, as well as who your kids are trying to become. Remember to be compassionate with your kids when you disagree with them. Sometimes teens especially need to try something on for awhile to learn who they are and who they aren’t. Try to see past the language, to the heart of the message. Get past the shock-factor of the lyrics, and try to understand the meaning. You may be surprised to find familiar themes which speak to frustration, grief, and despair; love, hope, and kindness.

With offices from Aspen to Parachute, YouthZone has helped over 30,000 families connect with their headphone-wearing, music-loving kids. For more information, call 945-9300 or visit online at

Evan Zislis is division manager of Aspen-Carbondale YouthZone

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